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Convocation 2011

Good afternoon, and welcome to the fall Convocation – when our community comes together to mark the beginning of the new academic year. Joining us today are students – including leaders of our student government – faculty, staff, and members of the UB Foundation. It’s a time when we look to both the past and the future, as we review the accomplishments and challenges of last year and envision the opportunities and tasks ahead.

As always, the UB story of the past year is your story – about the talent and dedication of our faculty, the commitment of our staff, the support of our alumni and Foundation Board, and the achievements of our students.

Specifically:

  • The College of Public Affairs and the Merrick School of Business both received national rankings in U.S. News and World Report.
  • For the first time, the School of Law was named a “Best Value” by PreLaw Magazine.
  • The College of Arts and Sciences was selected by the Association of American Colleges and Universities to participate in the Association’s 2011 Summer Institutes.
  • The number of faculty grants continues to grow.
  • Our staff not only supports our academic mission here on campus, but our community outreach and campus volunteer hours continue to increase, providing added meaning to the phrase “Knowledge That Works.”
  • As we approach the home stretch of Uniquely UB, our capital campaign, we are just shy of $39 million of our $40 million goal, already making the campaign the most successful fundraising effort in the University’s history.
  • Finally, this past year, 1,456 students graduated from the University of Baltimore, the largest number in our history. The success of our students is the main reason why we are all here, and I want to take this opportunity to recognize our faculty, staff and alumni for their role in making this happen.
  • I especially want to congratulate our students for realizing their educational goals.

These milestones have been achieved during times of significant challenge – for our state, for our country, and for today’s global society. The University of Baltimore cannot expect to be immune to these challenges. However, we can’t point to difficult times as an excuse to fall short in fulfilling our mission – and, as our graduating class numbers indicate, we have not done that.

Some of the challenges of the past year are still with us; some we have left behind. For the past three years, our employees have been subject to state furloughs, which are effectively a reduction in pay. Eliminating the mandatory furlough program was a major priority of the past year that I shared with all USM presidents and senior leadership, and I am gratified that the UB community will not be subject to furloughs in the present fiscal year. Our next priority will be to restore the ability to provide COLA, merit and salary increases that our faculty and staff so richly deserve.

This year, for the first time in the past five years and only the second time in the past 10 years, UB will not grow in headcount. We are still analyzing numbers from our final census data, and will share related information, including any budgetary impact, as soon as that analysis is complete.

This fall’s enrollment underscores a number of key points that we have cited in the past and must continue to understand in the future:

  • We have and will continue to depend on enrollment growth to supplement our state subsidy, especially to support our faculty growth target.
  • While we have enjoyed unprecedented success in attracting students to UB during the past decade, we must accept that there will inevitably be instances in which our targets are not met.
  • Context is important: In each of the past five years, we have set record headcount numbers.  So even though we didn’t reach our target, this fall term’s enrollment is the second highest on record – we are clearly maintaining our momentum.
  • Enrollment growth is everyone’s responsibility, and everyone has a role to play in its success. What’s important now is for us to learn from this year’s experience so that we may inform next year’s strategy.

During the past year, our community has engaged in important, ongoing, and sometimes passionate discussions around major issues. These discussions have raised some critical questions, including:

  • What is the role of campus shared governance, and how can decision-making be best informed and communicated?
  • How can we assure that our budget allocations accurately support our institutional priorities and reflect our educational mission?
  • What is the profile of the UB student that we serve today and the UB student that we will serve in the future?

I join with many of you in welcoming these discussions, because I believe they are critical to our long-term success. There’s one thing we can agree on immediately – we must do more than just talk; our dialogue must produce real changes and positive results. That’s why I’m encouraged by the work that is already underway, and the work we have recently announced, all of which is a direct result of the past year’s dialogue.

First, a Shared Governance Workgroup was formed last spring, with the overarching goal of formulating a more efficient shared governance model at UB. The group, chaired by University Council Chair Deb Stanley, made considerable progress during the summer in:

  • reviewing UB’s current governance structure, by-laws and constitutions
  • assessing existing strengths and weaknesses
  • researching structures at other campuses.

The work will continue this fall and will include a campus-wide survey, which I encourage all of you to take. The UB community can be strengthened by a common understanding of what shared governance is, how it can best function, and how we can engage our community’s best ideas to move the University forward.

Second, in my August update I called for the formation of a University Budget Task Force, which will consist of two representatives each from the University Council and the Faculty Senate; Dean Steve Percy; Provost Joe Wood and Vice President Harry Schuckel. The Task Force will hold its first meeting tomorrow; its objectives include:

  • determining areas of agreement
  • resolving areas of dispute
  • recommending and implementing an improved operating-budget planning process in time for FY 2013.

As with a more effective shared governance model, our collective work will be significantly enhanced by a more transparent, participatory and efficient budget process.

The third question I referenced is, to me, the most important: Who are our students? While the answer to that may appear to be obvious – we may be tempted to say “Just look around” – what we really need to ask is:

  • What do our current students need to be successful – here at UB and after they graduate?
  • How do we maintain academic rigor and excellence while fulfilling our historical mission of serving a nontraditional student population?
  • How do we prepare students who come to UB with a wide range of educational background and preparation?
  • Given our mission, our location, and our role in the University System of Maryland, what will the UB student profile of the future look like, what will those students need to be successful, and what can we do now to anticipate those needs?

These questions are the most critical for us to answer because they are at the core of our educational mission. The ultimate measure of any budget process we devise, any shared governance model we construct - in fact, any campus process we employ – is how well it contributes to our students’ success.

That is why I will ask the provost and deans, after open consultation with their faculties, to nominate faculty members from each College to serve on a University Study Group, which will include designees from the Office of Admission and input from current students. The Study Group’s fact-finding and research – part of the evidence-based decision making called for in our strategic plan – must be consistent with and supportive of the work of UB21, particularly that of the Learning Committee.

In fact, this is at the heart of the UB21 effort – proactively anticipating the future rather than simply reacting to it.

I will ask the Study Group to share their findings by fall 2012 so the work can help inform future academic and enrollment planning.

I would now like to announce the recipients of this year's UB Staff Awards, each of whom will receive a $1,000 salary bonus. These awards recognize the exceptional contributions made by UB staff during the past year and throughout their UB careers. The recipients of the 2011 UB staff awards are:

For outstanding customer service:

  • Tylis Cooper – Academic Program Coordinator; College of Public Affairs
  • Meredith Barr – Communication and Special Projects Coordinator; Achievement and Learning Center

For exceptional contributions to the mission of the University:

  • Stacey Marriott - Technical Writer and Web Content Coordinator, Office of Technology Services and Office of Human Resources   
  • Nicole Svehla – Program Administrative Specialist; UB Police Department

For extraordinary public service to the University and the greater community:

  • Carol A. Vaeth – Supervisor, Book and Document Delivery, Langsdale Library
  • Sharon Curley – Program Administrative Specialist; Center for Families, Children and the Courts.

I would ask those honorees in attendance to stand. Please join me in congratulating our colleagues.

I will now invite Provost Joe Wood to the podium. Joe.

In closing, I would like to return to the major reason we are all here – the students of the University of Baltimore. In particular, I would like to share with you the accomplishments of four of our students, knowing that there are literally hundreds of UB student stories that are equally impressive and inspiring.

First, there is Karla Moses, a third-year undergraduate student in the undergraduate Real Estate and Economic Development program in the Merrick School of Business.

  • Karla was awarded a $10,000 scholarship from the national Commercial Real Estate Women organization for 2011-12.
  • She is currently the president of the school’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization.
  • Karla has been a project manager for the Entrepreneurial Opportunity Center’s student consulting services program.
  • She is working as a Merrick School Ambassador and has worked with Dean Smith and other student leaders during the development of the MSB strategic plan.
  • When she is not on campus – I guess that means in her spare time – she is an associate broker for Long and Foster.
  • Karla plans to earn a law degree with a concentration in real estate law along with an M.B.A. with a concentration in sustainable real estate development. In fact, she can’t be with us today because she’s meeting with representatives of the Wharton School today.

There is Simone Bolton, an undergraduate major in Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.

  • Simone came to UB from Ubstadt-Weiher, Germany.
  • She was awarded the 2011 Psi Chi Kay Wilson Leadership Award for Outstanding Chapter Presidents at the American Psychology Association's August conference, where she also made a presentation.
  • Simone will continue to serve as chapter president this year, and has learned that “leadership is a process not just a position and that it involves everyone working together as a team.”
  • Sweetening the convention even further, UB's chapter of Psi Chi brought home the national 2011 Alberta Johnson/Ruth Cousins Building Bonds Collaboration Award in recognition of a collaborative effort that made a significant impact at the local, state, regional, or national levels regarding scholarship, leadership, research, and community service.
  • Simone is a Helen P. Denit Honors Program student, works at the Center for Educational Access, volunteers frequently on campus and serves as a student adviser.

There is Efrain Solis, a recent graduate of the B.S. in Health Systems Management program.

  • Efrain was awarded the 2011 College of Public Affairs Dean’s Advisory Council Student Award for Academic Excellence.
  • He graduated with a 3. 75 GPA and has earned administrative residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in the Department of Surgery, the first person who has NOT been a JHU student to be accepted into this residency.
  • He has already begun his graduate studies, taking advantage of UB’s Accelerated Bachelor’s/Master’s Option.
  • In Efrain’s own words: “Before my time here I attended the University of Houston, and as fine of a school as that is, with all its school pride and clout, I never felt the connection there that I have here. UB may be a small university, but its size is quickly eclipsed by each professor’s willingness to help and teach on an individual level. Some schools see you as a number; I know UB will remember me as Efrain.”
  • He’ll be heading to Dubai in November to represent his department at the World Hospital Congress. 
  • Efrain’s career goals include making a six-figure salary; becoming a hospital administrator, and eventually teaching – something we all hope he does at UB.  

There is Kate Wolfson, a third year student in the law school. Besides attending law school – which I vaguely remember to be time consuming – Kate has done the following:

  • She’s been a volunteer and student fellow in the Center for Families, Children and the Courts’ Truancy Court Program.
  • She’s currently a student attorney in UB's Family Mediation Clinic
  • She’s a Volunteer Coordinator for the Homeless Persons Representation Project, receiving their Outstanding Student Volunteer Award in April 2010.
  • She is a member of the Phi Delta Phi International Legal Fraternity.
  • As a Lawyers Campaign Against Hunger representative, she facilitated and supervised a food drive at UB collecting over 4,500 items for the Maryland Food Bank in the Fall of 2010.

This year, she is extending the Food Drive, to include campus-wide participation and “friendly competition,” with a goal of raising 10,000 items in five weeks. Look for more information on our website in the days and weeks to come.

  • She received the 2011 Dean’s Citation for Service, the 2011 UB Service-Learning Scholars Award, and was the Fall 2010 Winner of the UB Fit! Challenge.

Will all those students I just mentioned please stand so we can recognize your achievements.

As these stories illustrate, UB students are special. As we say at every graduation, they are the reason we are here. Learning about their accomplishments, their amazingly full and productive lives, and their ambitious plans, we can’t help but feel good about their future and our future.

We must also acknowledge that the world into which we are sending these bright young people needs their help. Our collective trust in the very foundations of our social contract – in our governments; in our politics; in our economic systems – has eroded. Problem-solving is replaced by demagoguery; doing the right thing is less important than winning the argument; respect of opposing views is perceived as weakness; and compromise is replaced by intransigence.

This shift in our public discourse has a cost, above and beyond the petty rancor reflected on the evening news. As we keep track of who wins the latest debate, more Americans are living below the official poverty line than at any time since the statistic was created 52 years ago. Trends are equally troubling in education: slightly more than 30 percent of men in our country attend college. The educational level of the median American male worker is the same today as it was in 1973.  

That is why I am proud to serve the faculty, staff, students and alumni of the University of Baltimore. At a time when the world around us has seemingly lost sight of what is truly important, it is personally and professionally meaningful to be part of a community that has dedicated itself to the transformational work of education. We are here because we have chosen to support students like Karla, Simone, Efrain and Kate. Whatever issues we must resolve, we are joined by a commitment to work that is always significant and often life-changing.

These times demand the best of us, and the University of Baltimore has a rich tradition of meeting whatever challenge is before it. I am confident that we can work together in a spirit of mutual respect and common purpose to continue to make the University of Baltimore a place of discovery, achievement and possibility.

As always, I thank you for everything you do at the University of Baltimore, and I wish you the very best for the coming academic year.Joe and I are happy to answer any questions.